Hands off our Auntie, Mr Abbott

For many in the bush, the ABC debacle will be the final straw

LAST week Tony Abbott effectively turned off the microphone that is tuned into rural and regional Australia. His Government has taken the axe to Auntie.

In country Australia the ABC is much more than a media outlet, it is an institution - one which provides us with our independent news and current affairs, stimulates local debate, protects and promotes our local interests, and produces quality rural-based programming.

It also acts as our emergency broadcaster in times of trouble.

A strong and well-resourced public broadcaster ensures that the ABC is void of the influence of media moguls, allowing for the production of independent editorial comment.

Secondly, public subsidies allow the provision of services in areas which would not be commercially viable, typically in the bush.

Thirdly, public backing allows the ABC to promote and nurture Australian content and local talent. These all represent sound investments.

When the Abbott government launched its attack on the ABC, it also declared war on rural and regional Australia.

Don’t take my word for it, ask any Coalition MP or Senator hailing from a rural area. Indeed, their constituents have been lining up to tell them.

Sadly though, government parliamentarians have tried to deflect criticism of the government and themselves by blaming the ABC board and management for the cuts.

These have been shocking acts of cowardice. Just as the cover-up always causes more hurt than the crime, so too does trying to blame someone else.

The fact is the Abbott government has cut around $500 million from the public broadcasters' (ABC and SBS) budgets.

When it did so it knew there would be substantial consequences.

Five rural and regional communities have lost their local radio stations. News bulletins will now be shorter so we'll hear less local news and local sports coverage is likely to be a memory only.

Iconic rural programs like Bush Telegraph will disappear and many others will be culled.

In the Hunter region, one third of the staff at ABC 1233 radio have been jettisoned. Half of the station's programming team have left the building.

Hunter residents who have always enjoyed tuning in to the local afternoon program with all its local content will now be listening to a program originating from Sydney.

A good program no doubt, but not one on which Newcastle or any part of the Hunter region is likely to rate a mention.

On election eve last year, Tony Abbott said there would be “no cuts to education, no cuts to health, no change to pensions, no change to the GST and no cuts to the ABC or SBS.”

Now he tries to tell us that $500 million is not a 'cut', it's an “efficiency dividend”. These are just weasel words.

I know the ABC well, I've been into dozens of its studios around the country and overseas. I've never seen any fat or inefficiencies. In my experience, staff are more often than not multi-skilled, undertaking a range of tasks which would be shared in a commercial setting.

The Abbott government's first budget hit hard, nowhere more than in rural and regional Australia.

For many in the bush, the ABC debacle will be the final straw, a confirmation that the government has abandoned rural and regional communities.

Joel Fitzgibbon

Joel Fitzgibbon

is Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries & Forestry & Rural Affairs and the MP for Hunter
Date: Newest first | Oldest first


1/12/2014 6:57:17 AM

The only reason the Labour left and Greens Pollies are jumping up and down about the trivial cuts to the massive budget of the ABC is because it is their lifeline to getting elected all the time. Not only do they milk the workers via suspect funding, they milk ALL Australians money via the ABC to push their left wing Green agendas and bag those of the conservatives. Facts are that ABC is no different to any other Government operation in the commercial arena. It should be privatized like all the others. It should have a 100% cut in public funding and float or sink on its own in the real world.
Frank Blunt
1/12/2014 7:31:41 AM

%100 correct LTF and I know Bushie would agree too, don't you Bushie ? Cut all funding to the ABC , they can float or sink on their own can't they Bushie ?
Just another farmer
1/12/2014 9:07:18 AM

Joel - The ABC had these cuts long planned. They have no interest in the bush and this was the excuse they were waiting for to complete the Sydney centralisation process. As for Bush Telegraph's demise, it shows just how little you know about the bush. It was broadcast on Radio National which can't be picked up by 90% of the bush because the signal doesn't reach them. Stop trying to pretend that you have empathy with the bush. It is not possible for Labor to be trusted by anybody in the bush so you are wasting your time trying.
w ch
1/12/2014 9:43:57 AM

LTF, you say, "they milk ALL Australians money via the ABC to push their left wing Green agendas and bag those of the conservatives." ----Julia Baird, the host of political talk show The Drum is the sister of NSW Liberal Premier Mike Baird! Left wing green agendas? The Federal Liberal member for Corangamite, Ms Henderson is a former ABC journalist. Left wing green agendas? The NSW Liberal Government Minister, Pru Goward, is a former ABC journalist. Left wing agendas? You obviously have a few screws loose with your conspiracy theories. You must have been crazy enough to believe Mr Abbott's lies too.
1/12/2014 10:02:37 AM

w ch, have a read of all the comments from readers on the topic of cuts to the ABC budget over the last two weeks in all publications. You will find that you are swimming against the tide and are in the minority on numbers. On logic and facts you do not have much of a feather to fly with. All other Government run operations in the commercial arena have been or are being privatized. There is absolutely no reason why ABC should be treated any differently. If you love it so badly then you pay for it. I've had a gut full of paying for blood sucking, empire building, public servants..
1/12/2014 10:17:14 AM

I agree with LTF. He has hit the nail right on the head.
Holy Moly
1/12/2014 10:19:00 AM

Just another farmer,could you explain where you got the 90% figure from?It just seems odd that I have been alot of places and never had any problem on the whole.
tim from oakey
1/12/2014 10:23:02 AM

w ch, are you aware just what contempt ABC's CEO Scott has for people in the bush? He loves us so much his cuts focus on the bush regions, while keeping all his city based empire in tact. He is just an empire building public servant who is trying to play our democratically elected PM for a mug. If he concentrated on just being a good even handed public servant he might have won some real sympathy from voters but as far as I am concerned he is a political grub, and he will eventually bring the ABC undone altogether.
Out of the shadowShadow Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon aims to put ag policy under the microscope. Based in the NSW Hunter Valley, Joel also has a unique perspective on the tensions between primary production and mining development.


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